In this article the writer illustrates the impartiality of a Human Resource Practitioner (HRP) in an organisation’s human resource (HR) affairs. Impartiality can be defined as the act of not siding with one party over another for an improper or biased cause or reason.
An example is where 2 brothers work in the same factory, brother A observes his brother reversing a folk lift without checking if the road is clear resulting in him hitting into a crossing front end loader causing damage to both machines and when asked as a witness to state what he saw, he points out that it was his brother who caused the accident.
Impartiality means assessing a situation or a problem from gathered information or evidence and thereafter apportioning the blame where it belongs or making an unbiased decision without favouring one party over another because of friendship or affiliation as examples. In the case of an HRP it is his/her relationship between management, workers and himself/herself that partiality must be avoided at all costs.
At https://www.jstor.org › stable, E Karni · (1998) says impartiality is the moral imperative requiring that conflicting claims be evaluated without prejudice.
Impartiality can be described as the principle that decisions ought to be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring to benefit one person over another for improper reasons. This definition is at https://www.actuaries.org.uk/upholding-standards/.
The definitions we have presented thus far imply that truthfulness, stating facts as they are in a discussion or when trying to find a solution to a case or matter is imperative. Having established the meaning and implications of impartiality, we can proceed to demonstrate its nature in HR affairs.
The HRP to function impartially should be a person with the following attributes for our purpose;
- Integrity, he/she must be respected for sticking to agreed positions without prevaricating on such matters whatsoever. Integrity means that every word that you pronounce is truthful and the people you work with believe in what you say.
- Sincerity, it is important that in any discussion the HRP is forthright with the information presented or obtained. He/she must portray truthful conviction in all his/her actions and discussions.
- Loyalty, the HRP must never obtain information from parties in a conflict and present it to one party to demonstrate to it that he/she is on its side or to show to one party that he/she despises the other party.
- Investigative, the ability to conduct and analyse a properly carried out investigation.
- Tact, the ability to read a scenario and act in a manner that does not anger feuding parties. Being able to study a situation, and use words that do not antagonise a party to a conflict even though you know that it has errored or is wrong in its demands.
- Attentive, an HRP should learn to listen and pay particular attention to what is and not being said.
- Knowledgeable, the HRP must know and understand HR matters, labour laws and unique HR issues that pertain to his/her organisation. This allows him/her to separate facts from irrelevancies.
We could add a few more to these attributes but these are sufficient for this write up. We now hereunder demonstrate the HRP’s impartiality.
As an organisation maintains its operations there comes a time when management and workers find themselves in a conflict which either party would be aggrieved with that will require an intermediary to resolve. An example of a conflict is where management changes the employees’ pay date arbitrary to a later one than is usual. This can agitate workers resulting in a conflict with their management.
The HRP is sought by workers to intervene in this matter. He/she listens to their complaint without agreeing with them that management had made a mistake but with a promise to take the matter to management.
Even though he/she is aware that management indeed errored he/she does not take a confrontational approach with it. He/she points out the he/she has been approached by the workers on the matter and feels that their, complaint should be heard. He/she provides it with the merits and demerits of its decision. His/her main objective is to tactfully convince management to reverse its earlier decision. In handling this matter he/she cannot be seen to side with management just because he/she is part of it.
Had it been employees who had reported for work but then decided not carry out their duties until management agrees to pay their salaries earlier than normal, his/her approach would remain the same but he/she would tactfully request that they return to work first whilst he/she consults with management on the matter. Any unrest is a costly event. In the with management, he/she avoids labouring the point that staff made a mistake to avoid hardening management’s stance or response.
Staff may request a wage increase or management will offer its staff a wage increment. In the former, the percentage requested may be higher than what the organisation can afford whilst in the latter the offer could be too low to make a positive impact in the life of employees. An enlightened HRP remains abreast of the financial situation of his/her organisation and is therefore able to advice employees that the quantum of their request cannot be financially met and sustained.
He/she can also advise management to adjust the offer to a level that can provide a, living wage that will improve their living condition which will sustain their health for carrying out tasks safely and productively. He/she may have to shunt between the 2 parties several times to obtain the desired result without revealing the anger or frustration of either side to maintain the negotiation and to avoid hardening their stances. It can be seen from this explanation that he/she is discussing the matter based on the information at hand and not which side he/she likes over the other.
Inter department squabbles
The Engineering Manager is furious with the Production Manager for reporting to the Chief Executive (CE) that he/she failed to repair the main oven which shut down the factory. He/she approaches his/her colleague and they exchange bad words which reach the CE. The CE asks the HRP to investigate the misunderstanding and report back. In his/her investigation he/she should first try to cool the tempers by speaking to the parties separately. His/her actions must never give an impression to one party that it his/her colleague who is at fault.
He/she then finds out from each one what happened and how a similar incident could be avoided in the future. He/she thereafter produces a report for the CE stating his/her findings without apportioning blame but with recommendations on how a similar circumstance can be avoided. Actually, this type of incident occurs all the time at the workplace and is usually handled by the superior officer of the feuding subordinates in a conciliatory manner.
This is an area that an HRP attends to regularly and impartiality in the manner cases are handled is his/her priority. He/she must investigate disciplinary cases in a truthful and unbiased manner at all times regardless of which parties are involved. He/she brings out the events as they happened without saying who was wrong in the case.
The decision as to who is guilty in a disciplinary case rests with the Hearing Committee or Authority. He/she should never be seen to point a finger at the complainant or the accused employee. If he/she does this the case can be thrown out for leading or influencing the Hearing Committee or Authority.
These few examples demonstrate the nature of impartiality in the duty of an HRP. He/she should treat disputants in an equitable manner at all times.
The writer is a Past President of both the Zimbabwe Institute of Management (ZIM) and the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe (IPMZ). He writes in his personal capacity.
Kingfrey Chizema MIPMZ. Hon FZIM